THE council has come under fire this week as Tullibody residents took to the streets to demonstrate against the handling of the civic centre handover.

Officials locked the doors of the building last Friday, September 28, removing its staff and leaving the area with no community facility.

The council says it is committed to transferring management control of the civic centre to the Tullibody Community Development Trust (TCDT).

However, demonstrators blasted the local authority with their protest outside the building and at nearby Tron Court.

One placard told the council to "Hang yer head in shame", while another read: “13 months of negotiations and you still shut the door.”

The TCDT is hoping to meet with the council in the near future, but a spokesperson for the group they were delighted to see so much support from the community.

She said: “It was great to see that everyone is 100 per cent behind us and will be patient during the interim until we can get a lease for running the centre signed off.

"The community has been amazing at coming forward and offering their support.

“We are all confident we can move forward, especially now we are working on our architect and business consultants’ feasibility study.

“It's frustrating for all, but, hopefully, it won't be too long until our trust has the centre up and running again.”

As reported in the Advertiser last Wednesday, a discovery that the roof above the games hall is in a much worse condition than anticipated hampered the drive to bring the facilities under community control.

Local tradespeople have since indicated they would be happy to repair the neglected roof, only asking for material costs, but it is unknown if the council had taken any offers on.

The TCDT spokesperson added: “It may be the initial lease does not include the sports hall until the roof is repaired, but hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.”

Meanwhile, volunteers are able to do minor repairs while joiners have offered to build storage cupboards.

A spokeswoman for the council insists that discussions for the handover process have been “constructive” for months.

She added: “There have been a number of issues connected with running costs, framework for transfer and repairs that have still to be resolved.

"However, council officers have offered the trust terms for a licence to operate the facility and short term assistance with rates and utilities to enable it to find its feet.”

Meetings were being planned as the Advertiser went to print, the council expressing “regret” the handover has not been completed by September 30 and committed to “finding a solution as quickly as possible”.

The council spokeswoman added: “While we’re disappointed that the centre will need to close, we hope very much that this will be for only a short period, and that a transfer can be made to the community in the near future.

“However, we have a responsibility to ensure that this is within a proper framework that protects users, the trust and the council.”

Meanwhile, the Tullibody Under 5s Toddler Group, one of the centre’s users, have been “extremely lucky” with the Masonic Hall being made available in the short term.

Chair Nikki Bruce expressed her thanks, but explained the youngsters will have a very limited number of toys due to lack of storage.

She added: “It will give us a little breathing space while the trust continues the good battle.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell is also backing the community takeover and has written to council chief Nikki Bridle.

He said: “I am aware of the significant repairs that need to be carried out at the centre, however the complete closure of the building will result in a significant loss for the local community and the groups that use the facilities.”

The politician urged the top civil servant to keep the centre open past the closing date, but it was not to be.

He continued: “I would also like to ask you for an update on the Heads of Terms for the official occupancy by TCDT, which I understand has been under way for some time now but is yet to be finalised. The Trust is eager to take responsibility for the building, but requires further information and a detailed Heads of Terms as soon as possible to be able to progress their plans.

“I understand the constraints the council is currently under, but I believe the offer from TCDT to take the building into community management is an ideal solution, allowing the use of the building by the community to continue.

“However, the full co-operation from Clackmannanshire Council is needed to achieve this, and I believe this premature closure proposed could set back the processes significantly.”